Looking for a silver lining in hard times is, at best, hard. Though historically some of the greatest creative works were created during and after great loss, or strain. If any good shall come from our current health crisis, perhaps it will be how our writers and artists respond.
It brings to mind the artist Pierre-Joseph Redoute who was an official artist for French royalty in the 19th-century, first Queen Marie-Antoinette, and then Napoleon's wife Empress Josephine. Somehow, he managed to survive the chaos of the French Revolution. After Josephine's death, the artist was forced to make a living in the marketplace entirely on his own. It was then that he published his greatest work: Les Roses. This iconic opus on roses is widely considered the greatest illustrated work on the species.
Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840). "Frontispiece to Les Roses". From Les Roses. Paris, 1817-24. Learn more
This magnificent floral wreath featuring a wide variety of cultivated and wild roses was the opening page of Les Roses. Printed in the center is an excerpt from “Ode V” by the Greek lyric poet Anacreon. The artist’s choice of this poem expresses not only his celebration of the glorious splendor of spring flowers, notably roses, but can be read as a celebration of his own renewal as an independent artist.
The poem in full translates:
BUDS of roses, virgin flowers,
Cull'd from Cupid's balmy bowers,
In the bowl of Bacchus steep,
Till with crimson drops they weep!
Twine the rose, the garland twine,
Every leaf distilling wine;
Drink and smile, and learn to think
That we were born to smile and drink.
Rose! thou art the sweetest flower
That ever drank the amber shower;
Rose! thou art the fondest child
Of dimpled Spring, the wood-nymph wild!
E'en the gods, who walk the sky,
Are amorous of thy scented sigh.
Cupid too, in Paphian shades,
His hair with rosy fillet braids,
When with the blushing naked Graces,
The wanton winding dance he traces.
When we weather our current storm, may we all rise with new vigor to delight in the perfume of spring flowers and celebrate in the simple pleasures of life.